With the lockdowns and the economic woes that the Coronavirus Disease 2019 has caused, a first termer in the House of Representatives on Monday urged the government to make mental health services more accessible to the poor.
Assistant Majority Leader and Rizal Rep. Fidel Nograles said “more Filipinos are afflicted by mental disorders due to the pandemic.”
The Special Initiative of the World Health Organization—Philippines, which was conducted in the early part of 2020, indicated that at least 3.6 million Filipinos suffer from one form of mental, neurological and substance-use disorder.
“Many of us are not okay and sadly, not everyone can afford mental health services. This is why the government must invest more in our people’s mental health,” Nograles said.
He said the Department of Health’s 2021 allocation for the National Mental Health Program was only P615 million, and expressed hope that the program would receive the P1 billion in additional funding proposed by the members of Congress.
The House of Representatives on Friday last week passed on third and final reading the proposed ₱4.5-trillion national budget for 2021.
“I hope there will be an increase in the budget for mental health. Our recovery from the pandemic depends on our people being of sound mind and body. We have to be healthy to face the challenges of recovery,” Nograles said.
He said additional funding could help address the barriers preventing the wider access to services.
While teleconsultations helped Filipinos overcome the constraints to face-to-face sessions, unreliable Internet connectivity, as well as the lack of information on where to seek help, had hampered the mental health response, Nograles said.
The country also has to contend with the lack of mental health personnel, with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III saying there was less than one mental health worker for every 100,000 Filipinos.
“But the fact also remains that psychiatric consultations are not cheap, with one session amounting to thousands of pesos without counting the cost of medication,” Nograles said.
“So the government, in accordance with the Mental Health Law, should take aggressive steps to subsidize mental health services so that the poor are encouraged to seek help.”
Nograles also urged the people not to hesitate to ask for help.
“Let us not take our mental health for granted. Let us seek help, if not from health professionals, then from friends or kin who are always ready to help,” Nograles said.